If you’re visiting the amazing country of Costa Rica, there’s a pretty solid chance you’re headed to La Fortuna and for good reason. La Fortuna is absolutely incredible, with lush rainforests, dramatic waterfalls, and a literal volcano towering over it- is it any wonder the city’s name translates to “The Fortune”? So if you’re ready for outdoor adventure in nature’s most epic playground, buckle up- here’s 11 of the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
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Table of Contents:
- How to get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- Best time to visit La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- Tips for visiting La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- Where to stay in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- Where to eat in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Psssst… are you headed to Costa Rica? Get ready to live your best Pura Vida- it’s amazing! We have a ton of other information-packed posts to help you on your Costa Rica adventures, which you can check out here.
How to Get to La Fortuna, Costa Rica
To get to La Fortuna, you can either fly into the San Jose airport or, less commonly, the Liberia airport (both are approximately 130 km or a two and a half hour drive away). The best way to get around Costa Rica, in my opinion, is by rental car, although you’ll definitely be paying a premium for all of the comfort and flexibility you’ll be getting with this option. On the positive side, though, both routes to the city are well-paved (so no need for a 4WD vehicle) and are stunningly scenic.
As the cheapest option, you can take public transport from either San Jose or Liberia for less than $10 (although, with this option, it can take up to 6 hours to get to La Fortuna).
The attractions around La Fortuna are fairly spread out- some as far as an hour and a half drive away- so if you can swing it, I’d strongly recommend renting a car while you’re in La Fortuna. While you can Uber to some of the attractions that are closer to town or book tours to the things that are farther away, that’ll definitely add up over time- and ultimately, a rental car may be a better value.
Best Time to Visit La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna’s proximity to the equator means you can expect tropical temperatures and wild greenery all year round.
The most popular time to visit the area is from mid-December through April, when the weather is drier and perfect for exploring all of La Fortuna’s incredible landscape. Attractions will be a lot more crowded during this time, though, and expect airfare and accommodations to be a bit pricier than during the low season. Also, be aware that La Fortuna’s lushness is thanks to the copious amounts of rain it receives all year round- so be sure to bring along a rain jacket (like this one for men or this one for women) regardless of when you come.
From May through November, the afternoons are generally quite rainy, but if you don’t mind taking a midday siesta from your adventures, you’ll enjoy cheaper prices, less crowds, and waterfalls and rivers at their most dramatic!
Things To Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Whether you’re a photographer, adrenaline junkie, or just an outdoor lover, there’s so many amazing adventures to be had in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
1. Catarata del Toro
Catarata del Toro is an ecological reserve, tucked away in the lush rainforests of the Central Valley about an hour and a half southeast of La Fortuna, with some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the country. I’m including it first because, if you have a rental car, it’s a great detour on your way from the San Jose Airport to La Fortuna.
The park offers several attractions- the eponymous waterfall, which towers 90 meters (300 feet) above the impossible green jungle below; the Blue Falls (or Las Gemelas), which consists of one turquoise waterfall and one emerald green waterfall, each nestled in their own canyons; or Poza Azul, a pool of brilliant blue water you can swim in.
There’s no public transport or tours here, so this is really only accessible if you have a rental car or are willing to take a (very expensive) taxi. That being said, if you have the flexibility to go here, I’d highly recommend it.
Given its remoteness, you basically get the waterfalls to yourself, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and there’s SO much to see and do on the property. In fact, my husband, Justin, and I arrived at the property around 9:30 AM and barely saw a fraction of its sights before we had to start driving back to La Fortuna around 4 PM!
If you wanna learn more, we wrote a whole post about everything you need to know about Catara del Toro.
Entrance fee and operating hours: $15 to see just the main waterfall, Catarata del Toro, or $25 to see both Catarata del Toro and the Blue Falls, along with a bunch of other falls and pools on the eastern side of the preserve (seriously, get the combo ticket!). The park is open from 7 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday. You can check the most up-to-date information about the park’s opening hours and pricing here.
2. Hot Springs
La Fortuna rose to fame due to its location by the stunning Arenal Volcano, which looms over the town. And thanks to Arenal’s geothermal energy, La Fortuna not only enjoys those sweet volcano views, but also plenty of cozy hot springs!
Most of the hot springs in La Fortuna are commercialized and in private resorts or parks, meaning you’ll either have to stay at the resorts or purchase a day pass to access the springs. There’s options for every kind of traveler- from Los Laureles Hot Springs, a simple pool with a BYOB policy (costing $12 for an all-day pass) to super swanky resorts with man-made hot spring waterfalls and lush landscaping (costing $80+ for an all-day pass).
If you’re looking for which hot springs to try, I’d recommend the following, depending on your budget and overall vibe you’re looking for:
Budget Hot Springs:
There’s actually one place, located here, where you can access natural hot springs for FREE! You’ll just be asked to pay 3000 colones to a local, who will help you find a parking spot along the road and will watch your car while you’re soaking in the water. It’s also a great place to meet locals!
Alternatively, as mentioned above, another budget-friendly (and favorite with the locals) is Los Laureles.
Baldi Resort Hotel and Spa ($39 for an all-day pass for adults)
Bougie on a budget:
Ecotermales Hot Spring ($44 for a half-day pass). This is where we went during our time in La Fortuna and LOVED it- you can read more about why we thought it was so great (spoiler- there’s sloths and monkeys involved) here.
3. Chocolate tour
While bananas and coffee are now Costa Rica’s primary crops, cacao was once king- in fact, the Chorotega people actually used cacao beans as currency up until the 1930s! So why not check out a working cacao farm, where you can learn all about the process of producing and creating everyone’s favorite treat?
The Don Olivio Chocolate Tour ($25/person) is a locally-owned and operated farm where you’ll get to see (and, more importantly, taste!) the tropical fruits, chocolate, and coffee the family grows on their stunning property. And extra bonus- this is usually a great place to spot sloths! Alternatively, if you’d rather have a choco-centric tour, check out the Rainforest Chocolate Tour ($30/person), where you’ll actually get to make your own chocolate creation at the end!
Tip: Most of the attractions around La Fortuna are quite active, from climbing hundreds of stairs to straight-up rappelling down waterfalls, Indiana Jones-style. If you’re looking for a chill activity one morning or afternoon, going on any of these La Fortuna chocolate tours may just be the best (and most delicious) way to take it easy for the day!
4. Rio Celeste
Buckle up for yet another impossibly turquoise waterfall, Rio Celeste! This stunning waterfall is located along a 5.4 km (3.4 mile) hiking trail in Tenorio Volcano National Park, about 1.5 hours northwest of La Fortuna (note- this would be a great detour if you’re heading to the Arenal area from Liberia).
The local legend behind this waterfall is so sweet- it was believed that when god was painting the bright blue skies, he dipped his paintbrush in the river, leaving behind the incredible color.
While the national park is known primarily for the waterfall, there’s a ton of amazing things you’ll see along the trail– bubbling electric blue hot springs, beautiful rainforest flora, and abundant wildlife (pssst… here’s a post with everything you need to know about visiting Rio Celeste!).
While you can’t go swimming in the National Park itself, I’m going to let you in on a little secret- there’s a free little swimming spot right outside of the park (located here), where you take a dip in the vibrant river to cool off! There’s a handful of parking spots at a pull-off here, but, since there’s no parking attendant to watch your car, we just made the 15 minute walk from the Rio Celeste trailhead.
Entrance fee and operating hours: It costs $2 to park in either lot by the trailhead and $12 per person to actually hike the trail. It’s open everyday 8 AM to 4 PM (although the last entry that’s allowed in is at 2 PM).
5. El Salto Rope Swing
Located a short walk from La Fortuna’s downtown area, El Salto Rope Swing is one of the only totally free activities in the area- and also a spectacular way to spend an afternoon! Tucked under an unassuming bridge by Road 702, you’ll find the El Salto Waterfalls, where you can jump (did you know salto means “to jump” in Spanish?) into the cool, turquoise water from the rocky cliffs surrounding the river or from a rope swing, tied to a nearby tree.
Most of the souls brave enough to jump are usually locals- even if you’re too much of a scaredy cat to dive in (hi, that would be me!), it’s so much fun to watch the locals flip and do all kinds of crazy tricks on the rope swing.
Looking to get your adrenaline pumping?
There’s several rivers that flow through the jungles around La Fortuna, many of which boast thrilling white water rapids. If you want to get in on the action, you can book a tour, ranging from Class I through Class IV rapids, where professional guides will lead you along the narrow curves of the river and down the exhilarating drops, all while pointing out the amazing flora and fauna you’ll see in the surrounding rainforest. If you’re a newbie rafter and want to just dip your toes in (pun obviously intended), check out this tour for Class II and III rapids (the easier kinds) (from $75/person) or if you’re looking for something a bit more intense, check out this tour for Class III and IV rapids (from $85/person).
Want to get out on the water but do something a little more chill? Consider this tour (from $51/person), where you can jump in your own inner tube and have a long, relaxing float down the turquoise waters of Rio Celeste.
7. Arenal Volcano
The Arenal Volcano is what originally put La Fortuna on the map- in fact, up until 2010, the volcano was constantly smoking! Nowadays, the volcano lays dormant and is almost always partially occluded by clouds (during our five days in La Fortuna, we never saw the full thing!)- but it’s absolutely still worth exploring. There’s two different options to hike near the volcano- you can either explore Arenal Volcano National Park or the Arenal 1968 Reserve.
Arenal Volcano National Park has two sectors- the main sector and the peninsula sector. Most of the most popular attractions are in the main sector, where you’ll find the Coladas Lava 1992 (piles of lava rocks you can climb on for excellent viewpoints of the volcano) and the Coladas and Ceiba hiking trails (you can do these two trails as a 5.39 km (3.35 mile) loop).
Alternatively, the Arenal 1968 is a private reserve with two trails, which weave through the luscious rainforest and eventually transition to rocky lava fields. There’s some absolutely stunning viewpoints along the way and a little cafe at the very end of the trail to get snacks and drinks overlooking the volcano.
If you only have time to go to one, I’d actually recommend Arenal 1968– it’s WAY less crowded, the views of the volcano are arguably better, and you have a much better chance of seeing wildlife, given the landscape in the National Park is pretty open, as opposed to the denser jungle of Arenal 1968.
If you’re interested in visiting, we have a whole post on Arenal 1968 to help you plan your trip.
Entrance fee and operating hours: Both Arenal Volcano National Park and the Arenal 1968 Preserve cost $15/person. The national park opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. each day and Arenal 1968 is open from 8 AM to 5 PM each day.
8. La Fortuna waterfall
The La Fortuna waterfall sits right outside of La Fortuna’s downtown and would be a quick bicycle ride from the main drag. You’ll hike down quite a bit of stairs (480, to be exact!) through a lush rainforest to reach the base of the waterfall, which towers 70 meters (229 feet) overhead.
You can either swim in the jade-colored pool at the base of the waterfall (although word of warning- it is quite strong and not for unconfident swimmers) or in the much calmer, beautiful springs downstream. I can’t imagine a more scenic place to splash around and cool down on a hot day under the Costa Rican sun.
Once you make the trek back up the stairs, there’s an orchid and butterfly garden for you to explore, as well as several viewpoints to take in the waterfall and the surrounding jungle.
Entrance fee and operating hours: La Fortuna Waterfall is open from 7 AM to 5 PM everyday and costs $18 per person. In my opinion, the price is a bit steep, but between the stellar scenery and the fact that the money is reinvested into conservation of the waterfall preserve, I think it’s worth it.
Looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity that’s not, like, actually death-defying? Well, amigo, zip-lining may just be the perfect choice- you get to fly high above the canopy of the rainforest and see the jungles of La Fortuna from a completely unique perspective!
There’s almost a dizzying amount of ziplining operators, tours, and packages to choose from in the La Fortuna area. Check out the Sky Trek Canopy Tour at Arenal Sky Adventures Park, which offers amazing views of the volcano (from $87/person), or the Big AMA Canopy Tour at Arenal Mundo Aventura Ecological Park, the only zipline in the region to fly over the La Fortuna waterfall (from $73/person). If you want to bump up the intensity a bit, consider this tour, which includes both zip-lining and rappelling down a waterfall (from $208/person).
10. Mistico Hanging Bridges
For yet another breathtaking perspective of the jungle, stop by Mistico Hanging Bridges. Within the park, you’ll wind along a 2.7 km (1.7 miles) trail through the dense forest and across six hanging bridges floating amongst the treetops. You’ll get incredible views of the rainforest throughout the park- from the enormous leaves dangling right overhead on the bridge to the jungle floor up to 45 meters (or 148 feet) below!
You also have a chance of seeing wildlife here, like howler monkeys, sloths, and even tarantulas- while we unfortunately saw very little critters during our visit, we could hear the beautiful sounds of wildlife all around us! To be completely transparent, from our own experience and talking to other travelers, seeing wildlife here can be a bit hit-or-miss, given that the animals are just that- wild (as they should be!).
There’s definitely better places to spot wildlife in Costa Rica, like the incredible Manuel Antonio National Park or, oddly enough, even at the aforementioned Ecotermales Hot Spring in La Fortuna. That being said, if this is going to be your only chance in Costa Rica to explore the dense jungle and the amazing creatures that call Costa Rica home, I’d recommend going on a guided tour, like this one, for the best chance to spot furry friends through the thick jungle canopy.
Entrance fee and operating hours: Tickets into Mistico Hanging Bridges start at $26/person and the park is open every day from 6 AM to 4 PM.
Canyoning is one of the most thrilling activities you can do in La Fortuna- you’ll hop in a 4×4 with a professional guide, who will take you deep into the Costa Rican jungle. From here, you’ll rappel down waterfalls, climb down canyons, cliff jump, and swim through narrow passageways- in other words, you’ll basically be like the jungle version of Jason Statham.
While you’ll obviously be with guides who know the canyons like the back of their hands, this activity is definitely geared for the adventurous travelers who are comfortable, you know, literally jumping off canyons and whatnot- if that sounds up your alley, check out this tour, this tour, and this tour, you daredevil, you!
Tips for Visiting La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Get places early:
My number one tip for visiting La Fortuna (and really, pretty much anyplace) is to get wherever you’re going early. Time and time again, we read reviews and met travelers complaining about how crowded certain attractions were. But for us, at almost every single place we stopped, we got there as soon as it opened- and always had the place to ourselves.
So if you’re into photography, want to experience Costa Rica’s nature without a zillion people around, or simply just don’t like crowds, the early bird most definitely gets the worm.
Wear hiking sandals:
As you may have noticed, almost all of the activities in La Fortuna are outside and involve walking- whether it’s on a coffee farm, over an old lava field, or through a jungle.
I’d strongly recommend bringing shoes with decent traction that you can wear in and out of the water- Justin and I both wore our Teva hiking sandals (Justin has these and I have these) almost everywhere and it was awesome to have one pair of super versatile shoes no matter what kind of activity we were doing.
Have cash on hand:
While almost all restaurants and attractions take credit cards (like, way more than any other country we’ve explored), it’s still good to have some cash on hand, if you see a roadside coconut or orange juice stand or want to pay an unofficial “security guard” to watch your car while you’re out exploring (which happens a lot here).
Where to stay in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
While some of the activities in La Fortuna are pretty pricey, there’s definitely accommodations for every budget, from super cheap hostels for backpackers on a shoestring budget all the way up to extravagant resorts and spas for honeymooners.
I’d recommend checking out:
- Sleeping Mountain Guesthouse: Conveniently located just a block away from La Fortuna’s main drag, with a shared kitchen to help you cut down costs on eating out.
- Nice Place Hostel: While this is called a hostel, it definitely takes all the awesome parts of a hostel and hotel and mushes them together- you’ll have a shared kitchen and living space, but get your own bedroom and bathroom. Add in the awesome proximity to La Fortuna’s downtown and the friendly service, and this place is one of the very best budget stays in all of Arenal.
- Selina La Fortuna: Selina is kind of eclectic, offering dorm rooms, rustic teepees, private and family suites, coworking spaces- it’s got it all going on. Plus, it offers a great location in downtown La Fortuna, free breakfast, and trendy decor. However, it’s definitely geared more towards the party crowd- so if you’re heeding my advice above about getting places first thing in the morning, you may want to look elsewhere.
- Hotel Sierra Arenal: This is where Justin and I stayed in La Fortuna and I really enjoyed it. The rooms are simple, but clean, there’s free tasty breakfast every morning, and a relaxing pool area to cool off in the midday sun.
- Princesa de la Luna Ecolodge: If you’d prefer to be shielded from the hubbub of La Fortuna’s downtown area, this rustic, yet clean lodge is an excellent option. You’ll feel totally immersed in the lush rainforest, but still have luxuries, like a pool and jacuzzi, at your fingertips.
- Monte Real Hotel: This hotel is basic, but has some nice amenities that some Costa Rican hotels lack, like refrigerators and coffee makers in each room. It’s within walking distance of La Fortuna’s downtown, offers a pool, and even has some rooms with awesome views of the volcano!
- Lost Iguana Resort and Spa: Right by Mistico Hanging Bridges, this is the perfect spot if you want to feel one with the rainforest. Many rooms have sweeping volcano views and you’ll be lulled to sleep by the amazing sounds of the jungle wildlife.
- The Springs: If we were going on our honeymoon to Costa Rica, I’d probably want to stay here. The property directly overlooks the volcano- so get ready to have incredible views while you’re swimming, soaking in hot spring… and pretty much everywhere else on the property. Add in bougie touches, like swim-up bars, and onsite activities from hiking and kayaking and this would be one incredible place to call your homebase in La Fortuna.
- Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa: Tabacon has arguably the most beautiful and romantic hot springs in Arenal. Everything about this place absolutely screams five star resort- from the private balconies in each room to the serene Shangri-la Gardens, which are exclusively for the enjoyment of hotel guests.
Where to eat in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
La Fortuna is an awesome homebase for all of your outdoor adventures, with plenty of places to grab food made from impossibly fresh fruits and veggies. A few of our favorites were:
- La Street Antojeria & Restaurante (Costa Rican food)
- Soda la Hormiga (Costa Rican)
- Yellow Bark (Costa Rican and international cuisine)
- Kappa (sushi)
- La Fortuna Pub (I came for the veggie burger, but stayed for the live music and killer mojitos)
La Fortuna is seriously one of my favorite places on the planet- I literally just left and am dying to go back! Do you have any questions about La Fortuna? Sound off in the comments below!